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O.J. Simpson Trial: How Racism and Culture Created a “Monster”

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Today in America, the idea that every man and woman is created equal is embedded into the brains of our youth at a young age. They are taught that every American citizen is entitled to equal rights regardless of his or her race, gender, or religious background. In spite of this, racism always has been, and always will be, a part of American culture. It is found everywhere. Racism exists in the daily life of almost every citizen of this country, whether they are aware of it or not. As a country, we want to believe that we refrain from using the pigmentation of another’s skin as an essential in judging another, but that belief is somewhat fictitious. Racism is not just superficial; it is ingrained in our minds and in the culture of our nation. Racial discrimination can be both easily detected and easily concealed depending on the situation. It can be seen through irrational assumptions, physical outrages, or even personal thoughts that induce a certain action or behavior. Many people may have racial tendencies without realizing it.

Although the United States of America has taken colossal strides to eradicate racial discrimination, certain controversies and events wake the sleeping monster of racism that is implanted in our culture. In 1995, the murder trial of Orenthal James Simpson, commonly known as O.J. Simpson, changed America’s media culture everlastingly. Due to its overwhelming media coverage, the trial brought issues of race and crime to the forefront of national concern. It revealed a nation that clearly had not eliminated all racial instincts against African American populations. What seemed to have started as a general murder investigation of a high profile celebrity, soon spiraled out of control into a racially diluted murder trial that was publicized all over the world. On June 12, 1994, O.J. Simpson’s former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman were brutally stabbed and murdered at her residence in Los Angeles. Due to reports that Simpson had physically abused Nicole while they were married, he became the main suspect in the double homicide.

Subsequent to being formally charged with the crime, Simpson and a friend, Al Cowlings, fled Los Angeles in his infamous white Ford Bronco. Simpson had a gun to his head the entire time he was fleeing and planned on ending his own life. He also wrote a suicide note, which was read by a friend at a widely televised press conference. Once the white Bronco was spotted in Orange County, Simpson led dozens of police cars on a nationally televised low-speed chase. By this time, millions of people were watching these televised events. After hours of the police negotiating with Simpson to “put the gun down”, he surrendered himself to the LAPD. The media coverage of these events was so publicized that people began watching the news as if it were a soap opera or hit television show. Audiences all over the world began following and obsessing over the murder trial involving O.J. Simpson. On July 22, Simpson pleaded “not guilty” to the murders and after almost 17 months of jury selection and legal planning, the trial began.

The only evidence presented by the prosecution team was that Simpson physically abused his wife during marriage. There was not a single piece of concrete evidence, (such as fingerprints, witnesses, confessions, murder weapon, etc.), to prove Simpson was guilty of the crime. Later on, the prosecution presented incriminating evidence that contained both O.J. and Nicole’s blood, connecting him to the murder. After the evidence was proved to have been planted by a racist detective of the Los Angeles Police Department, Mark Fuhrman, the trial became much more complicated. The defense was determined to prove that Fuhrman planted the incriminating evidence against Simpson due to his racist view against blacks. The defense was able to get Fuhrman to deny that he had used the “N word” in court. The defense then revealed previously recorded statements of Fuhrman repeatedly using the word “nigger” in a derogatory way. Once these statements were presented to the jury, the fact that he was the detective to uncover most of the key pieces of evidence became questionable. Race played a key role in the O.J. Simpson trial.

The prosecution used racism as incentive to formulate a plan to ensure the jury found Simpson guilty, and the defense used racism as a strategy to show the trial was racially driven by exposing Fuhrman’s racial tendencies. In almost every aspect, race was the fundamental component of the trial. The media coverage of the criminal case was soon surpassed by media coverage of the civil case against Simpson. The mass exposure of the trial ignited the dispute that race plays a significant role in our law enforcement and justice system, which tore America apart. Race is the key factor that divided America in half, when it pertains to the public opinion of whether Simpson is guilty or not. At this time, most black Americans believed racist prosecutors set up Simpson because of his skin color and that he should be set free. Most white Americans believed he was guilty without a doubt and he should be locked away for life. In the documentary, “O.J. Simpson: Myth or Monster”, it is revealed that Simpson was proved “not guilty” by a unanimous vote. Members of his legal team give first-hand testimonies of the astonishing obstacles they overcame to set Simpson free.

They claim that the media created a “monster” and made false accusations daily, which were broadcasted across the world. This resulted in the media propelling an artificial trial, which gave the public freedom to make assumptions of whether they believe Simpson is guilty or not. The jury agreed that Simpson was not guilty, and most people involved in the case would agree due to the overwhelming lack of evidence. The American public did not come to their conclusion of whether he was guilty or not by factual evidence. America’s conclusion was based on where they stood on the issue of racism. White Americans believed that Simpson is undeniably guilty and should be convicted. Black Americans believed that Simpson was simply another black man victimized by our corrupt justice system. Simpson’s legal team even received death threats for setting Simpson free, even though they saw the case as a great achievement. Both white and black Americans are influenced by their personal experiences with racism and the criminal justice system. The O.J. Simpson murder trial is possibly the most widely known trial in American history.

People around the world were, and still are, emotionally invested in this murder trial. The emotional investment was not driven by the actual murder trial itself; it was driven by racial discrimination. The effects that the O.J. Simpson trial had on our country is clear evidence that America is far from perfect. Americans felt an emotional tie to this trial because it showed that racism is indeed still present in America. To this day, there is a major discrepancy between black Americans and white Americans on whether the conviction was justified or not. Even though most black Americans that are alive today were not enslaved by white Americans, there is still uncertainty and lack of trust between races. Even in 2013, hegemony is present. In a sense, the white population is the dominant population, which causes a division of race in our nation. Even though slavery has been abolished and all men are to be treated as equal, racism is engraved in our nation’s culture. As Americans, it would be close to impossible to ignore such an impactful part of our past. Many Americans are not what we call “racist”, but racial tendencies, either malicious or instinctual, are a part of our nation’s culture and will be exercised by Americans in a time of turmoil, such as the O.J. Simpson trial.

Works Cited

Enomoto, Carl E. “Public Sympathy For O.J. Simpson: The Roles Of Race, Age, Gender, Income, And Education.” American Journal Of Economics & Sociology 58.1 (1999): 145-161. America: History & Life. Web. 3 Feb. 2013.

Gira, Jay, dir. OJ Simpson: Monster or Myth?. Writ. Hernan Barangan. Celebrity Video Distribution, 2010. Film. 5 Feb 2013.

Rothenberg, Paula. RACE, CLASS, AND GENDER IN THE UNITED STATES. 8TH. Worth Publishers, 2009. 13-20. Print.

Buck, Pem. “Worked to the Bone” CONSTRUCTING RACE, CREATING WHITE PRIVILEGE. (2001): Print.

Buck, Pem. Worked to the Bone. Monthly Review Press, 2001. 32-37. Print

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